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The Book of Job is unique and stands alone with no connection to any other in the Bible, other than three references to the man Job. In Job’s time it was considered that God’s judgement was administered during life; prosperity for the good and punishment for the wicked. This is the story of an innocent man’s suffering and his refusal to blame God in the midst of that suffering.

Job loses everything

[Job 1] Job is a righteous man who fears God and hates evil. He is very wealthy and considered to be the greatest of all the men of the east. His sons do not have the same reverence for God and he continually prays for them. On a day that court is held in heaven, Satan is present and God questions him concerning Job. Satan claims that Job serves God only because he is wealthy, and if his wealth was taken away, then he would curse Him. God gives Satan permission to test Job, but he is not permitted to touch Job himself. In the space of a single day Job loses everything, all his possessions, servants and family. Despite all this, Job worships God and makes no complaint against Him.

Job is inflicted with running sores

[Job 2] Having failed in this attempt to discredit Job, Satan claims that Job is now concerned only about himself. God permits Satan to test him further, but his life is to be spared. Job’s body becomes covered from head to toe in running sores. His suffering is so great that even his wife suggests he should curse God and die. But Job holds fast and still refuses to speak against God. Three of Job’s friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, hear of his plight and come to see him. His sores are so bad they can hardly recognise him and spend seven days just sitting with him to be a comfort to him.

Job speaks of his anguish

[Job 3] Job speaks to his friends, relating how he now finds life so bitter that he wishes he had never been born. He longs for relief to his suffering in death.

Eliphaz speaks to Job

[Job 4-5] Eliphaz responds to Job’s complaint, reminding him that he has often counselled people in the past and he should now consider his own advice: God afflicts the guilty, not the innocent, and no one is blameless before Him. What is it that Job has done? Troubles are just a part of life. He should turn to God, be grateful for the chastising due him and wait for God’s favour to be restored and his life to be abundant again.

Job’s response to Eliphaz

[Job 6-7] Job describes the degree of his suffering as immeasurable. He longs for his cries to God to end his life to be heard. His friend’s words bring no comfort; they are meaningless because he has done no wrong. Job fears he has to live out his appointed time on earth continuing in suffering. The nights bring no relief and his days are spent without hope. He now turns to God and complains about his condition, desperately trying to reason with Him, crying out about his present condition and questioning why any past transgressions have not been pardoned.

Bildad now speaks to Job

[Job 8] Bildad believes in God’s justice and that He will not condemn an innocent man. Job must therefore have sinned at some time and his passionate words can be seen only to be hypocritical. Only God’s provision of relief would prove him and other accusers wrong.

Job’s response to Bildad

[Job 9-10] Job too believes in the justice of God and reflects on His wisdom, power and dominion. How then can he communicate with God, to call him to account? Good or bad people, disaster can come to both, but the wicked are seen to prosper. Job is confused by his predicament. His confusion continues to be expressed in his words. His creator has become his destroyer, yet he takes comfort in the good things God had given him. But confusion remains because of the harsh way God has now dealt with him. Nevertheless, he still wishes he had not been born, questioning whether there will be any respite before his days are over.

Zophar now speaks to Job

[Job 11] Zophar is harsher towards Job than his other two friends, claiming he lies about his innocence and that God is letting him off lightly. Job must repent of his sins and put them behind him; only then will God restore him.

Job’s response to Zophar

[Job 12-14] Job refutes his friends’ arguments, telling them they are no wiser than he. It is Job who is upright, yet is suffering, whilst there are those who are not upright and prosper. Still Job acknowledges God’s wisdom and sovereignty, particularly over men’s affairs. He again defends himself against the accusation of his friends, which he says is nothing but lies for which they will surely be judged by God. He tells them to leave him alone and reaffirms his confidence in God. Job now pleads with God to discuss his afflictions. Job reflects on man’s sinful life, the inevitability of death and the hope of a resurrection. He then complains of the severity with which God has dealt with him, even suggesting this is the way He deals with men generally, destroying their hope until death, having lived in pain and sorrow.

Eliphaz speaks for the second time

[Job 15] Eliphaz charges Job with showing no respect for God in his attempts to justify himself, claiming his own words condemn him. To emphasise how wrong he considers Job’s words to be in saying the wicked are not punished, Eliphaz now delivers a detailed account of the woes and fate due to them.

Job’s response to Eliphaz

[Job 16-17] Job’s reply to Eliphaz applies to all his friends; instead of bringing him comfort they added to his misery. Had they been in his circumstance, then he would have treated them differently. Job again speaks of his sufferings, maintains his innocence and wishes he could take his case directly to God. Still he continues to wait for relief in death. His friends have dealt with him unjustly, for upright men will be astonished at what has happened to him, and true men of God will want to strengthen themselves. He sees no wisdom in his friends’ words and has no hope other than death.

Bildad now speaks for the second time

[Job 18] Bildad appears to have lost patience with Job as he now embarks on a full attack, reproving his attitude and words. Like Eliphaz before him, he goes into some detail concerning the misery and fate of wicked people, presumably applying his words to Job.

Job’s response to Bildad

[Job 19] Job again complains about his friends’ cruel words and his afflictions of which he says God is the instigator. Yet still he expresses his faith in his Redeemer and that he will eventually see Him. Job warns his friends that if they continue, they may well suffer God’s judgement.

Zophar speaks for the second and last time

[Job 20] It seems that Zophar has taken no notice of Job’s confession of faith, but reacts to his reproach with more words concerning the fate of the wicked and the hypocrites. He asserts that the prosperity of a wicked man is short and his ruin a surety; not just he, but his family will also suffer; he will be stripped of his ill-gotten wealth and live in misery; his death will be violent and his family and property finally destroyed.

Job’s response to Zophar

[Job 21] Job now seems to give up complaining about his own predicament (it didn’t seem to move his friends) and focuses on the primary point of dispute between them: is prosperity the mark of a righteous man and the loss of it sufficient to prove him guilty of sin? He addresses this by suggesting they should be astonished by the fact that often the wicked seem to live long lives and prosper in all respects, yet live in defiance of God, although their ruin does come eventually. Job charges his friends to observe these facts, and in doing so accuses them with falsehood in their attempts to comfort him.

Eliphaz now speaks for the third and last time

[Job 22] Eliphaz accuses Job of self-righteousness and even lists sins he says Job has committed, which are the cause of his troubles. He reminds Job of God’s works of majesty and judgement in days of old and urges him to acknowledge his sins and repent; then all will be well with him again.

Job’s response to Eliphaz

[Job 23-24] Job longs to find God to plead his case to Him, but He is not to be found. He is still confident in his innocence, but nevertheless is fearful of being in His presence. He now lists some terrible things he sees that go on in the world in the transgressions of the wicked. Although they are not punished in this life, God will reserve them for future punishment. It cannot be said then that all who are suffering are wicked, nor that all who are prosperous are righteous. Job asserts that his words cannot be contradicted.

Bildad speaks for the third and last time

[Job 25] It would seem all has been said that can be said, for Bildad now does no more than state the obvious, that no man is perfect in God’s sight.

Job’s response to Bildad

[Job 26] Bildad’s speech seems to have brought Job to the realisation that his friends’ arguments have run out of steam and he sharply reproves them for their lack of wisdom. He shows that God’s might is evident in creation, but even so, who can understand the full extent of His power?

Job’s concluding response to his friends’ arguments

[Job 27] His friends have finished speaking, Zophar having elected not to speak for a third time. Job strongly asserts his innocence and speaks against the hypocrites and wicked people.

Job reflects on wisdom

[Job 28] Now his friends are silent, Job ponders on the mysterious ways of God and the question of wisdom. He speaks of man’s endeavour to obtain precious metals and the difficulties involved in the process. But precious metals and stones do not compare to wisdom and no amount of them can purchase it, nor can it be searched out from amongst earthly things. True wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord and abstaining from evil.

Job reflects on his past prosperity

[Job 29] Job recalls the glorious days when God blessed him, even from his youth. He was blessed with a good home and family, respected by all manner of people and held in great respect as a magistrate.

His present suffering

[Job 30] Now Job’s previous glory has all been turned on its head. He was held in esteem by the greatest of men, but is now held in contempt by the lowest; he enjoyed good health, but now is in a constant state of suffering; he had enjoyed the presence of God in his life, but now God has deserted him. In times past Job had a sympathising heart towards those in need or in trouble; he now has to lament over his own sorrowful condition.

Job defends his character before God

[Job 31] Job gives a detailed account of himself and his life. He defends his integrity, chastity, his dealings with his servants, the poor, widows and the fatherless. He has not been guilty of covetousness or idolatry, has always been hospitable towards strangers and has never attempted to cover sin. Now Job appeals to God’s judgement, confident of his innocence.

Elihu comes on the scene: His first speech

[Job 32-33] A young man by the name of Elihu had been listening to the exchanges between Job and his friends. He has become angry at Job’s self- righteousness and angry because his friends condemned him but had no answer. He hadn’t spoken until now out of respect for their age, but they are now silent and so he speaks up. Elihu explains to Job that he has the Spirit in him and God has given him understanding. Great men are not always wise and age does not always bring understanding. He resolves to speak impartially. Elihu proposes to speak in God’s stead, but not harshly. He accuses Job with an irreverent attitude in claiming his innocence and speaking of the harsh way he considers God has dealt with him. He should not strive against God, for God cares for men’s souls by various means. Sometimes instructing by dreams and visions through which he humbles their pride to preserve them from ruin, sometimes through afflictions and sometimes through a messenger. These are wise and gracious methods that God uses to enlighten men. Elihu encourages Job to listen attentively to his teaching.

Elihu’s second speech

[Job 34] Elihu pauses, but no one responds, and so he continues with a second speech. He gets the attention of Job’s friends, then charges Job with accusing God of acting unrighteously, which is of course impossible. Elihu refutes Job’s accusing words by pointing out the power and judgements of God. He tells how men should address God, then solicits men of understanding to join him in trying Job.

Elihu’s third speech

[Job 35] Job remains silent and Elihu accuses him of implying that his righteousness is greater than God’s, saying that no man can affect God, either by his iniquities or his righteousness. Many men are oppressed, but few cry out to Him in their time of need. Job has lost hope in ever seeing God’s favour return, but is this justified, and are Job’s complaints in reality lacking knowledge?

Elihu’s fourth speech

[Job 36-37] Elihu, despite all his words so far, says there is more to be said on God’s behalf and entreats Job to listen. He tells of God’s dealings with men, how the righteous are rewarded, but the wicked are disciplined and commanded to return from iniquity or suffer the consequences. He suggests that if Job had submitted to God’s judgement, then things would have been different. He shouldn’t be wishing for death but learning the lesson. He then speaks of God’s sovereignty as reflected in nature. Elihu continues to extol on God’s design of nature, questioning Job’s understanding of it. He finishes by reflecting on God’s power and judgement, all of which is why man should be in awe of Him who is no respecter of persons.

God intervenes

[Job 38-40:2] God now intervenes and challenges Job to answer numerous questions concerning creation: where was he when God created the world, night and day, the weather systems and the constellations? And what about the wild animals, can he provide their food, did he create them and provide for all their needs? Will Job instruct the Almighty? Let him answer.

Job’s response

[Job 40:3-5] Job’s response is not unexpected having been confronted by God. He humbles himself: Behold, I am vile. He cannot answer.

God continues to challenge Job

[Job 40:6-41:34] God challenges Job with the impossible, questioning if he is at all like Him in majesty and excellency, having dominion over the proud. An instance of God’s power is given in a specific land animal called a behemoth, describing its size and power. The leviathan, a sea animal, is also named, and the two described as animals that no man can control. A lengthy description of the leviathan is given. In describing these animals, God is emphasising to Job the infinite distance between Job’s impotency and His omnipotence. (Note. Nobody knows what the behemoth and leviathan were. Favourite guesses were elephants and crocodiles; more recent and controversial suggestions are dinosaurs.)

Job’s repentance; God’s verdict; Job’s restoration

[Job 42] Job now acknowledges the folly in his thoughts and words, confesses them to God, finds he now abhors himself and repents. God accepts Job’s repentance but censures his three friends, demanding sacrifices to be offered so that Job might pray for them. Nothing is said against Elihu. Having forgiven his friends, Job is restored to his former prosperity and receives double what he had before. His family continues to grow and he enjoys a full life, living a further one hundred and forty years.